Angela Sanders, who was fired the day she returned from surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, a work-related injury, filed a lawsuit against her employer back in 2014. Sanders was given the choice, along with 16 other employees whose jobs were eliminated by the state Workers' Compensation Commission, to either be terminated or take a "voluntary buyout." Due to the changes in workers' compensation law and procedures for filing claims and lawsuits, Sanders realized that there was some irony in the fact that she was required to sue the agency that fired her.
Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Law & Procedure
In 2013, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld new changes to the state of Oklahoma's workers' compensation laws, stating the changes were constitutional. The new law, which became effective in February of 2014, phased out the entire Workers' Compensation Court system, which was judicial, and replaced it with a system that was administrative. The new administrative system introduced the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission (OWCC), which now handles all claims filed by injured Oklahoma workers.
More On The Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Law
In addition to changing the procedure for filing workers' compensation claims, the new OWCC changes include:
- Cumulative trauma, accidental injury, or death claim filing deadlines have been reduced to only one year from the date that the death or injury occurred. In the past, Oklahoma allowed up to two years after the injury or death occurred.
- The list of covered services under the Workers' Compensation Act no longer includes "diagnostic."
- Other covered services, as described, include first aid, medical, surgical, hospital, optometric, podiatric, nursing, medicine, and crutches and other necessary apparatus.
Most importantly, though, is the fact that Oklahoma workers can no longer file a claim against an employer who they allege retaliated against or fired them due to a work-related injury in a district court. Instead, according to this new law, those types of claims would have to be filed with the Workers' Compensation Commission. Additionally, damages on these claims would have a cap of only $100,000.
Is The New Procedure Ironic?
Is it ironic that an employee of the Workers' Compensation Commission would have to file a lawsuit with the WCC, against the WCC? Certainly, it does not sound like there would be a fair and impartial assessment in a lawsuit like Sanders'. The Oklahoma workers' compensation lawyers at Frasier, Frasier & Hickman, LLP are highly experienced with the old workers' compensation procedures, as well as the new procedures. If you have a workers' compensation claim you are struggling with, call our office at 918-779-3658 for a free consultation today.